Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Generative AI: How virtual can marketers become?

by Thomas Peham, VP of Marketing at enterprise CMS Storyblok

Generative AI in the form of Chat GPT and Dall-E has sparked worldwide debate about the power and potential impact of AI. Interacting with these platforms, it’s easy to see why. These tools have the potential to profoundly impact numerous business functions and customer experiences. Marketing is naturally a prime candidate. Marketers are generally required to create a lot of copy and imagery. Thanks to the rapid growth of data-driven personalisation, consumers demand increasingly personalised experiences. It does not take a tech savant to see the direction of travel. Marrying generative AI with personal data to automate the creation of truly bespoke marketing communications is the destination. How we get there and what it means for marketers, businesses and the martech industry are the big unanswered questions. 

At Storyblok we quickly got a taste of generative AI being applied to our platform when our partner Virtual Identity created a plugin for our CMS to enable content creators to insert images generated by DALL-E while they are working on webpages. In one fell swoop, Virtual Identity had removed both the tedious nature of searching image libraries, and the need to buy stock photos. Creators could generate the most appropriate image they needed instantly, without even leaving our CMS. 

There’s a few things to consider here. Not only does this plugin potentially enable a huge amount of cost and time saving for businesses while developing website content, it also supports creativity. DALL-E is providing imagery suggestions that the creator may never have thought of including. It also raises longevity questions for companies supplying stock images.

And that’s the impact of generative AI in a microcosm – it can create substantial efficiencies, open the door to more creative potential.

In the next few years we’re likely to see generative AI increasingly applied to the generation of website copy, email campaigns, online and real world advertising imagery, push notifications and so on. Martech companies will look at developing new tools and integrations to enable generative AI to seamlessly interact with existing tech stacks and make services – such as chatbots more personalised and useful to consumers. Businesses will begin to experiment with connecting their data sources to create new and automated and personalised user experiences. 

It is, however, worth remembering that generative AI is at a relatively early stage of its development. Chat GPT is an impressive piece of technology but, as more and more people have interacted with it, limitations have become apparent. It is not wholly accurate and can be tricked. Data scientists will warn you that AI is only as good as the data it uses to learn from. If your data is incomplete, biassed or simply wrong, AI will amplify these problems with potentially disastrous results. There is a reason that Meta’s own version of Chat GPT uses a much smaller foundational language model. Fewer parameters limits potential but also means less could go wrong. Therein lies the challenge for businesses and also a glimpse at the future for marketers. 

The best way to start using generative AI is on an incremental basis and always with human oversight. For example, in the automation of tasks – like Virtual Identity’s image sourcing – or as a starting point for creativity – for example, generating email copy which is then adapted. This will enable your business to put in place the policies and procedures for leveraging generative AI in a risk free manner. 

It also provides marketers with a clear career development route. A copywriter should not fear that Chat GPT will take their job tomorrow. Instead, they should see it as a useful tool which they can specialise in leveraging to its full effect. Prompt engineering may become the number one skill marketers will need in the age of Content AI. I’m reminded of a relevant anecdote told by Phil Tippett, a legendary stop motion animator, about his experience working on Jurassic Park. Originally, the movie was meant to be completed with stop motion animated dinosaurs. During development some computer wizz kids managed to create a groundbreaking CGI T-Rex which led to the stop motion animation being scrapped. Instead of lamenting the seemingly imminent obsolescence of his craft, Phil realised his experience and skills had a huge amount of value in CGI. He knew how animals and objects should move in animation – something the CGI boys couldn’t figure out – and by applying his knowledge and creativity they were able to generate graphics far in advance of anything seen at the time. It’s worth noting that Phil would go on to win the Oscar for best visual effects.

I would hazard that the same will be true for many marketers. Aspects of their craft will become redundant but, if they focus on upskilling themselves on the latest technology and thinking of how it can be creatively applied, there is no chance they will become extinct.